Philosophical Roadkill

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I believe that creativity begets creativity. I like the word “beget” because it reminds me of my days as a young teenager when we would encounter the word during bible study and it gave us something to snicker about. All the while waiting for the next appropriate passage of time to ask, “Can we go outside yet?” I require fresh air. Not just the exchange of fresh air coming through a ventilation exchange system, but the whole experience of fresh air: to see the day/night cycle, bugs, birds and to hear the sounds of life around me. I’ve worked in big factories during all hours with no windows, just huge noisy machinery in a cavernous warehouse space. It always made me feel disconnected. Like a flower cut from the stem and forced to live in a windowless vase. A biological entity consumed to keep the heartbeat of a great mechanical beast going. For what? A paycheck.

Those types of jobs can cost you a body part or more if you don’t pay attention. I’ve always had a good mechanical aptitude. I can often see how individual components make up a larger system be it mechanical, biological, or social. When I got my first car there was a whole lot of pavement underneath the hood. I often joked it was powered by a hamster and a couple of rubber bands. It was a 1978 Ford Mustang II with T-tops. After taking it to auto mechanics for this problem or that I discovered that they were taking advantage of me. They advised me to replace parts they had replaced only two months earlier. They’d wrongly assumed I wasn’t paying attention. How many alternators does a girl need? Only one and it shouldn’t need to be replaced so often. Then I discovered a clean knife cut 1/3 through my radiator hose shortly after getting my car back. Fortunately, the radiator hose had been long enough I just finished the cut and clamped the hose back on. Problem solved for free, by my hands.

I whirled into automotive garage like a tempest, a 16 year old girl, and threatened to rip all their balls off and wear them as a necklace. The guys panicked. It was comical to see a bunch of big guys with beards and tattoos forced to scurry about like mice caught in the pantry. Just short of turning into a full force hurricane the Manager offered to take me for a ride while the guys fixed my car, free of charge this time. I took his keys and drove his car around for about an hour while he sat in the passenger seat and apologized profusely. After about an hour I got my own car back and never returned there again.

Shortly after that a boyfriend convinced me to leave my car parked in a shady part of town for the night. Against my better judgement I did. When we drove back the next morning my car was there but the passenger window was broken and the ignition switch had been sawed off. It appears the thieves didn’t know how to drive a stick shift. So sad for them! They ended up taking my car battery. “You owe me a new battery.” I said tersely. He agreed. I was grateful the thieves hadn’t damaged any of my library books in the back seat. Then I’d have felt obligated to hunt them down and beat them up for disrespecting books and libraries.

There weren’t any cellphones back then. So while my boyfriend paid for the battery I borrowed the auto supply store’s phonebook and found a listing for a junkyard. I went alone to see if I could replace the window and ignition switch by myself. The key worked, but you could take it out while the car was running if you wanted too.

The junkyard was fantastic! I should have tried to get a job there! Sweetest junkyard dogs you could possibly meet and the guys were really nice too. They’d drive me out to the section of the yard where we’d find the right vehicle to strip for parts and take them back to the front office for checkout. I’d fix my car right there. They would lend me their tools and tell me how to do it. The guys would hang around like old friends and tell me stories while I worked when they weren’t busy. Unfortunately, with the T-tops, they didn’t have a model exactly like mine and the best window we could find for replacement left a little gap where the window top and T-top met. I drove around with a complimentary towel for any poor passenger stuck riding with me when it rained.

So why is this post called “Philosophical roadkill?” Well, it was beget or inspired by another blogger’s post who likes to do a “Word of the Day” and the word for that particular day was Sumpsimus.

sumpsimus [ suhmp-suh-muhs ]

noun, plural sump·si·mus·es for 2.

1. adherence to or persistence in using a strictly correct term, holding to a precise practice, etc., as a rejection of an erroneous but more common form (opposed to mumpsimus). 2. a person who is obstinate or zealous about such strict correctness (opposed to mumpsimus).

Dictionary.com

When I first started entering the waters of social media I had a desire for being sumpsimus about grammar and writing etiquette. It didn’t earn me many friends. I learned to adapt and embrace that this is a living language; with each generation and social revolution language changes and so does the acceptability of the norms. This doesn’t mean that I’ve swung to the opposite side, mumpsimus; but that I accept in ways my opinion doesn’t matter and it’s not a battle worth fighting for as far as I’m concerned.

However, I do not let my husband off the hook so easily! First, he knows better. Secondly, he’ll do it intentionally to mess with me. Whenever we see roadkill, usually a dead squirrel, he’ll call it an “ex-squirrel” because he knows I hate it. I always argue that the squirrel may have become divorced from its body, but it probably has a little squirrel spirit floating about the æther somewhere. I propose that the squirrel of matter is now the squirrel of anti-matter. Some essence of squirrel carries on in that spark of energy that once gave it life in the form of matter. Some Scientists argue that the æther doesn’t exist at all. I would argue that its just not well understood and no one should take mythology built around the natural order too literally anyways. We continue to unlock so many mysteries about the human mind and the universe itself. I see us as cogs in many wheels: within society, within nature, within the universe. I believe this is the dimensionality of our existence. You matter not because someone else says so, but because you belong to a larger order. Squirrels who forget about a cache of nuts and grow new trees. Insects who avoid predation and insecticides to breed another generation as food, as composters, as a ripple effect in the larger sea of climate change. Energy is neither created nor destroyed, it transitions.

Maybe I passed through this physical world as a squirrel once before. Why could such a thought be so impossible to believe? I have yet to discuss Disaster Preparedness on this blog, but when I see the squirrels hiding caches for winter it reminds me to check my own cache of disaster supplies. I live along the Pacific rim where we’re expecting a really big earthquake within the next 100 years. Even if I should become divorced from my body before or during the big event, if my supplies help others survive then I feel I’ve fulfilled part of this niche for this cycle.

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What do you think? Do you have a sense of purpose you’d be willing to share? Other thoughts?

For reference:

Try Working This One Into a Sentence | Schingle’s Blog (wordpress.com) April 26th blog post re: sumpsimus.

My mustang wasn’t as fancy as this restored and upgraded one, but it still has the original body. Blue 1978 Ford Mustang Cobra II Hatchback – MustangAttitude.com Photo Detail

An Army of Little Poopers

The clues started to emerge that they were coming, nay, that they were already here! Grabbing a pan from the drawer below the oven I spied small bits of play dough at the bottom. Strange that it would be there. No reason for it. I make it for my son and it goes from pot, to kneading on a cutting board, to official play dough container where it gets played with on the dining table. Most kids have outgrown play dough well before his age, but we could give it a new name to make it cool again, we would call it “brain dough” instead. Artists come by inspiration in many ways, and I would say even people who consider themselves “non-artist” have a form of art within them either unspecified or unnurtured.

For my son, the tactile feel of the malleable blob helps him open his mind to shape stories. The secondary evolution of these characters in his head have recently started to come out more through drawing. Maybe it all will stay as lifelong hobby, leads to an eventual career, or get put aside for other things. It doesn’t matter he’s only ten. This still doesn’t explain the play dough in the oven drawer though, but it was late, and I decided to deal with it tomorrow. Then yesterday morning my spouse remarks that the dog must have snuck down in the middle of the night and finished her last little bits of kibble. No, I knew then it was a mini intruder or intruders. A little play dough hoard, little missing bits of dog kibble, sounds like mice to me!

Sure enough I took all the pans out of the drawer find lots of hard play dough bits and mouse poo. I track the lines of poo along the edges of the wall. I can see where it’s been. It’s like they drop a turd for every step they take. How terribly inefficient. There was no smoking pile though, no obvious enter/exit point. I thought for sure it would be some small hole behind the refrigerator, that would be classic, but alas, I can find no entry point to block so I’m likely going to have to call for help. My regular guy recently retired. Despite being an exterminator, he was a nice guy, and like me doesn’t believe death needs to be unnecessarily cruel or painful. Some of the exterminators around here are shadier than any rat could ever be. They can fleece you out of thousands of dollars in their abatement schemes.

I just want the mouse or mice to not be in here, pooping along my baseboards. They should be out in the field, that’s why we call them “field mice” not “house mouses.” (Don’t get me started on that shady Micky Mouse either!) Another nature friend of mine, a former coworker, woke up one morning and felt a small fuzzy body curled up next hers once, it was a mouse! She did not freak out. She took it outside and let it go. That mouse was lucky! It knew it was curling up next to nice a human. We don’t really want to kill this mouse either. If I could catch it and put it outside to go live in the woodpile, we would do that.

When I was in India in 2004 I took an eight hour train ride from Bengaluru (aka Bangalore) to Raichur with my undergraduate group. We were there to study social and environmental issues in India as part of a study abroad program. I was the oldest student by about 5-7 years. Just before the doors closed in Bengaluru a mouse came on the train. Someone before us have eaten shelled peanuts and left them on the floor. Some of my fellow group members got all into a panic. The seats on the train were benches stacked two tall. So all the scared-y cats piled up on the top two benches and I got the peanut seat all to myself, until Kedar, one of guides/translators for the trip was happy to join me and equally chill about the presence of the mouse. I pushed the peanut shells deep under the seat where the mouse could pick through them without harassment.

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Kedar and I spent the whole train ride talking. We talked about his upcoming arranged marriage and drafted schematics for bioreactors. A machine that can speed up the rate of decomposition for solid human waste into organic compounds for fertilizer. The tricky part isn’t technical or mechanical issues but getting the “material” from the producers; everyone in society, to the consumers; farmers that can use it to help their crops grow better. In manufacturing this is called a “closed loop system” or “cradle to grave” product because it is continuously redistributed. This is how we need to revolutionize manufacturing throughout the world if we want to survive as a species. This is why “single-use plastic” is a loaded term. When someone is using this term, they are telling you; “This item does not break down. It can stay with us for a millennia.” There are billions of single use plastics polluting the earth. You can do your best to reuse it as many times as possible, you can recycle it to be made into a new bag perhaps, but eventually its going to end up in the landfill, waterways, or landscape. It delays the issue; it doesn’t solve the issue. There is hope on the horizon, by promoting certain strains of bacteria that has evolved to eat plastic and poop out inert organic compounds.

Don’t let the doom and gloom of climate change stories leave you resigned to a fate of destruction. While I too occasionally get depressed over terrible stories or things that I witness I’m incapable of giving up. Letting go is hard to do, but I can do it when I know it’s the right thing to do, but I won’t give. I won’t give up on the life of this planet, little poopers and all.

A few stops before Raichur with only Kedar and myself still awake during the all-night train ride we watched the mouse get off at his stop. I knew exactly where it was going as if it could feel by internal rhythm or the smell of the air that this was its stop. I turned to my friend and said. “Ah look, how nice of the city mouse to come visit his cousin, the country mouse.”

More to explore, External Links:

Amazing Facts about Mice | OneKindPlanet Animal Education & Facts

How Do Bacteria Eat Plastic? | American Council on Science and Health (acsh.org)

Bioreactors Types: 6 Types of Bioreactors used in Bioprocess Technology (biologydiscussion.com)

Bioreactor landfill – Wikipedia

Aesop’s Fables  The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse – Wikipedia

Mind the Gap, Beetnik

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I read an article in the Smithsonian magazine about Dasia Taylor, a high school student from Iowa that received an award for her research in creating color-changing sutures to detect infections by using beet juice. Her project idea came after she read about “smart sutures” which involves coating the sutures with a conductive material that can detect changes in the wound by the changes in electrical resistance. I don’t understand exactly how that works without a picture or video because I tend to be a visual and experiential learner, but that’s not what’s important here. What’s important is that these technology-based sutures capable of relaying the information to smart phones or computers are not cheap, nor are the materials to make them.

While Dasia was reading about these sutures, she thought about the racial equity work she does in her community and how universal something like wound care is. As part of her research, she found that in some African nations up to 20% of women who give birth by cesarean section develop infections at the surgical site. So how do you make sutures that can detect infections without smart technology?

Dasia’s solution was to look for something that could measure the Ph difference in the skin. Healthy human skin is naturally acidic at around pH 5. Infections raise the pH level to around 9. Many fruits and vegetables change color at different pH levels making them natural indicators for different pH levels. Red beets (Beta vulgaris) ended up being Dasia’s best candidate. While her research isn’t perfect yet, she was able to demonstrate that it works and that vegetable dyes can be a viable, low cost solution to wound care.

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More works needs to be done, but I’m bringing this to your attention because it illustrates some important realities.

You can’t have racial or social justice without environmental justice (and vice versa) due to economic and resource disparities throughout communities, countries, and regions.

Technology will not save us. It can help in many ways but looking to technology as our first response to everything is both arrogant and irresponsible.

I’m currently researching the question: Can capitalism be Green?

I’m currently settling on the answer: Cloudy with a chance of sun.

Our current capitalistic systems of commerce are not green and never will be if they remain as they are. We must reject the fallacies of “trickle-down economics” and “companies being able to police themselves.” It’s like leaving a toddler alone with a cake. Why would you think that’s a good idea?

Here’s the sunny part though, I think if we breakdown capitalism at the particle level, we can reconstitute it into a true Green economy. We are the particles. We are the grains of sand that can change the color of the beach. We make economic-based decisions everyday by what we purchase and organizations we choose to support. I think true radical change has to come from us, the people. We need to change our behaviors. We need to choose to be Nature-led, Social Justice minded people and societies every day. New patterns and pathways take time for our minds to adjust. When I first started using reusable bags for the grocery store, I would forget a lot. I didn’t give up and I kept trying to do better until the new pattern became the norm and I rarely forgot them. By the time the Pandemic hit it was hard to leave my reusable bags in the car. We knew so little about the Covid-19 virus in the beginning though, but I wasn’t willing to risk my safety or the safety of others around me. I kept the single-use bags I was getting and when it was considered safe to do so I recycled them. Here in the U.S. we have special containers at the store specifically for recycling clean, dry plastic grocery bags.

More needs to be done though. We need to make bigger advances faster. How? How can I/we be a part of those advances? I believe we need the thoughts, experiences and imaginations of everybody, every age, every perspective to find innovative solutions. We need to be excited about working towards common goals. I think an innate part of us seeks to be part of something greater than ourselves. We are after all social creatures.

Links:

This High Schooler Invented Color-Changing Sutures to Detect Infection | Innovation | Smithsonian Magazine

32 Weird, Crazy, but True Beet Facts | Fact Retriever

Green economy | UNEP – UN Environment Programme

“Beetnik” – This is a play on words. The real word “Beatnik” was a nickname for “the Beat Generation.”: Beat Movement | Encyclopedia.com

Give me thoughts, or just your favorite Beet recipe, either will do!

I pressure cook beets with orange juice and add it to green salads with walnuts and goat cheese. Yum!